Homemade Ice Cream Cake
Learn how simple it is to make your own ice cream cake from scratch! This homemade recipe features layers of chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream, and is topped off with an easy whipped cream frosting.
When it comes to summer one of my favorite desserts to enjoy is ice cream. Specifically, homemade ice cream.
Since I shared my favorite no-churn ice cream with you last week, it only seemed fitting to show you a fun way to use that recipe. Enter: this homemade ice cream cake!
Yes, you read that right! This recipe is completely homemade, but don’t let that scare you. It’s actually pretty easy to put together and makes for an impressive dessert, especially during the warmer summer months.
This ice cream cake is perfect for birthday parties, but it’s also fantastic for a variety of different occasions. I kept this recipe as classic as possible with chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream, but I’ve also included several different ways to change this recipe up to really make it your own.
While the list of ingredients may seem long, you don’t need anything fancy to make this homemade cake! Let’s quickly cover a few key ingredients:
- Sweetened Condensed Milk: Be sure to use sweetened condensed milk and not evaporated milk by accident. It’s easy to mix up these two ingredients and I can assure you they do not work the same.
- Heavy Whipping Cream: Make sure to use heavy whipping cream that has at least 36% milkfat. You will also need two pints – one for the ice cream and one for the frosting.
- Buttermilk: This is used in the chocolate cake layers and helps to create a soft, tender crumb. If you don’t have any on hand, feel free to use my homemade buttermilk substitute instead.
- Vanilla Extract: You will be using vanilla extract in the ice cream, cake layers, and frosting. I highly recommend sticking with pure vanilla extract or even vanilla bean paste. Avoid imitation vanilla because it won’t taste nearly as good.
- Espresso Powder: While this is optional, I do recommend using it in the chocolate cake because it enhances the flavor of the chocolate. My personal favorite brands are Dellalo or Medaglia d’Oro. If you don’t have any on hand, you can either omit it or use instant coffee granules instead.
How to Make An Ice Cream Cake
Make The Ice Cream Layer
- Combine the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, and salt: Make sure to whisk the mixture until it’s well combined.
- Beat your heavy cream to stiff peaks: Start mixing on low speed, then increase the speed to medium-high until stiff peaks form. In other words, when you lift your beaters up out of the bowl the peaks of whipped cream stand straight up.
- Fold in the whipped cream: Gently fold half of the whipped cream into the sweetened condensed milk to lighten the mixture. Then, fold in the remaining whipped cream until just combined.
- Freeze the ice cream: Scoop the ice cream mixture into a springform pan lined with overlapping pieces of plastic wrap and smooth it out. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream (so it doesn’t get icy!) and freeze overnight.
Prepare The Chocolate Cake Layers
- Whisk together the dry ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Then, whisk in the granulated sugar and brown sugar.
- Whisk in the wet ingredients: Add the oil, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract and mix until just combined. The batter will be thick like brownie batter at this point, similar to the picture on the right.
- Whisk in the boiling water and espresso: Combine the instant espresso powder with the cup of boiling water. Add to the mixing bowl and whisk until everything is just combined. The batter will be really thin at this point, this is normal!
- Bake the cake layers: Evenly distribute the batter between two greased 9-inch cake pans lined with parchment paper. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake layers completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Assemble The Ice Cream Cake
- Make the frosting: Start by making a double batch of my homemade whipped cream. Feel free to stabilize your whipped cream if you prefer, but I don’t find the extra step necessary. Regular whipped cream will hold up and freeze just fine!
- Level and stack the cake layers: You can use either a knife or cake leveler (I really love this cake leveler from Wilton). Add a little whipped cream to the center of the surface that you will be assembling your cake on. Place your first layer of chocolate cake on top, then the ice cream layer, finally add the second cake layer upside down on top.
- Add the whipped cream frosting: Spread a thin layer of whipped cream over the outside of the cake to catch any pesky crumbs. Then, use the remaining whipped cream to frost the cake.
- Freeze for 30 minutes to 1 hour: This will give the ice cream time to set back up and make it easier to slice.
I personally prefer to assemble the cake the day of or the day before I plan on serving it. However, it can be prepared up to one week in advance and stored in the freezer.
If you plan on making this a few days in advance, it’s best to cover it so it stays fresh. Once the whipped cream has frozen solid on the outside, you can wrap it with plastic wrap and store it in a large freezer-safe container.
If you slice into the cake and then freeze any leftovers, make sure to place some plastic wrap directly on the surface of the exposed cake so that it doesn’t dry out.
As I mentioned earlier, this recipe is very customizable and can be made in a variety of different ways. Here are a few different ideas to try:
- Use a different cake flavor: You can use any of my cake recipes to make two 9-inch cake layers. Some other great options besides chocolate cake are vanilla cake, carrot cake, Funfetti, strawberry, red velvet, or even lemon.
- Try another ice cream flavor: Instead of vanilla ice cream, try another flavor that you love. Some other great options that pair well with chocolate cake – Oreo, peanut butter cup, strawberry, or mint chocolate chip. My post on how to make no-churn ice cream covers all of these flavor options!
- Use only one layer of cake: You can easily make an ice cream cake with one 9-inch cake layer using any of my cupcake recipes and add the layer of ice cream on top.
- Use different sprinkles/toppings: Swap out the sprinkles for another color that suits the occasion like red, white, and blue for 4th of July or black and orange for Halloween. If you really want to take this cake over the top, you could even add a layer of chocolate ganache on top of the frosting!
- Short on time? Feel free to use a box of your favorite cake mix and 1.5 quarts of your favorite ice cream.
- If using store-bought ice cream, allow it to soften at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes first. This will make it much easier to spread into the springform pan.
- Don’t skip lining your pans with parchment paper, this will make it easier to remove the cake layers. I use these parchment paper circles – they work fantastic and are super convenient.
- Work quickly! Even though the ice cream is frozen and firm, it will start to soften.
Ice Cream Cake
Vanilla Ice Cream
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream (1 pint; 480 ml)
Chocolate Cake Layers
- 2 cups all-purpose flour spooned & leveled (250 grams)
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (65 grams)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar (200 grams)
- ½ cup canola or vegetable oil (120 ml)
- 1 cup buttermilk (240 ml)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water (240 ml)
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee optional but recommended
Whipped Cream Frosting
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream (1 pint; 480 ml)
- ½ cup powdered sugar (60 grams)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- To make the vanilla ice cream: Line a 9-inch springform pan with overlapping pieces of plastic wrap, making sure to leave some overhang for easy removal. Set aside.
- Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, and salt to a large mixing bowl. Whisk until well combined and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, add the heavy whipping cream. Start mixing on low speed. Once the mixture starts to increase in volume, increase the speed to medium-high and continue mixing until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold half of the whipped cream into the sweetened condensed milk mixture, then fold in the remaining whipped cream until just combined.
- Scoop the ice cream mixture into the prepared springform pan and smooth it out into one even layer.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and transfer it to the freezer to freeze overnight (or for at least 8 hours).
- To make the chocolate cake layers: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper circle and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Whisk in the granulated sugar and brown sugar until well combined. Then, add the oil, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract and mix until just combined. The batter will be thick like brownie batter at this point.
- Add the instant espresso powder to the cup of boiling water and mix until fully dissolved. Add to the mixing bowl and mix until everything is just combined. The batter will be thin.
- Evenly distribute the batter between the two prepared cake pans.
- Bake for 28 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly touched.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, wrap the cake layers tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
- To make the whipped cream frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.
- Start mixing on low speed. Once the mixture starts to increase in volume, increase the speed to medium-high and continue mixing until stiff peaks form.
- To assemble the cake: Remove the cake layers from the fridge and level the tops of each one with a knife or cake leveler.
- Add a tablespoon of whipped cream to the center of a cardboard cake round, a cake stand, or a large serving plate to help the cake stick to the surface, then place the first layer of cake on top.
- Remove the ice cream from the freezer. Peel the plastic wrap off the top of it and lift it out of the pan using the overhang from the plastic wrap.
- Place it upside down on top of the cake layer and peel off the plastic wrap. Place the second cake layer upside down on top of the ice cream layer. If the ice cream is overhanging the cake layers a little bit, use an offset spatula to help smooth it out evenly with the cake layers.
- Working quickly, spread a thin layer of whipped cream over the outside of the cake to catch any crumbs. Then, use the remaining whipped cream to frost the top and sides of the cake. If you want to pipe some decorations on top, I recommend reserving 1 to 1 ½ cups of whipped cream. If using sprinkles or other toppings, add them to the cake at this point.
- Once the cake is decorated, place it in the freezer for 30 minutes to 1 hour before slicing and serving. If you leave the ice cream cake in the freezer for several hours before serving, let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes so that it’s easier to slice.